Swindon, England based duo TC&I’s members might be familiar to those of you who adore XTC. As two parts of the late influential rock-pop band, Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers have joined forces again to share with the world fresh music. You can find their recently released EP ‘Great Aspirations’ available from Pledge Music and Burning Shed. Here we talk to Colin Moulding on all things TC&I.
Let’s start off with the most burning question: why did you and Terry decide to come together to form TC&I?
A spur of the moment decision really – he was back in the country and hoping at that time to move back to the U.K. permanently after having lived in Australia since he left the band in 1982. So I asked the improbable and got a positive response. I was, at that time, toying with the idea of making an EP, but I guess that it was having Terry on board, to my tremendous luck, that the project took on solid purpose. He was at a loose end and I was looking for some sort of impetus to get this thing off the ground so fortuitous in every respect.
What has the response been like to ‘Great Aspirations‘ and this current project?
Overwhelming – You see the band had dissolved some ten years previous, so naturally I thought that we, or I, would not be ‘the word on everyone’s lips’. In short I thought we were a forgotten entity, although the reissues were selling, but of course this wasn’t XTC, so naturally I thought there would be some shortfall. I’m just taken aback by the reaction really.
What was the symbology of the ‘Great Aspirations‘ cover?
It is the figure on my brass bedstead. The bed frame itself. I thought that as I had been staring at it these long months whilst writing this stuff that I would put this vision to good use. You see I write in bed with a laptop and keyboard, it’s very comfortable and convenient and catches that ‘morning moment’…very important.
‘Scatter Me’ is gorgeous lyrically. How do songs come together normally for you? Lyrics first or second to the melody? Does that change when you’re working on different projects or does your system stay the same no matter what?
I can’t say that I’ve changed my working method any since I started. I prefer if words and melody grow together, in fact I always look on it as a bad omen if one gets ahead of the other. This one (‘Scatter Me‘) grew in perfect sync. Lyrics, generally, are just a vague idea of what’s been kicking around in my head at the time, derived perhaps from poems, film dialogue, or songs that I’ve heard. The music is much more hard graft. A good musical idea has to launch it. A chord sequence or riff. I look for a kind of tension, to give the song ‘teeth’…without it then I’m still out in the cold.
How did the recording process for the EP go after being on hiatus for over 10 years?
I have recorded my voice for other bands, and contributed to projects over those 10 years, so it followed that we would would record it ourselves at my place. Very ‘seat of your pants stuff’ – Sax players in the kitchen, singers in the hall, that kind of set up. It’s even a bit more exciting this way, and obviously saves one money. One makes mistakes but one has the facility to just do another. Expensive studios do not allow one that luxury.…I don’t have the big budgets that my XTC days afforded me, but in a way it’s more satisfying this way. Our PR guru Shauna has played a large part in getting the word out, plus social media and of course the XTC grapevine, whose tentacles have spread far and wide in our 40-year career. So there are more avenues open now than what there were when going it alone.
What were your thoughts on the XTC documentary “This Is Pop” that was recently released?
It was okay… it might have dwelt too long on Andy’s breakdown, but the object is to entertain, and trouble and strife makes for good copy.
I dare say there were other tributaries that the story could have explored, but the filmmaker has to tell it the way he sees in his mind.
What do you think about the current state of pop music and streaming? Are there any artists you’ve been digging recently?
The remuneration for the artist from streaming is very small. One could never consider spending the budgets that one had in the eighties on a record. The band just would not recoup, even on reasonable sales.
Artistically, there are still some good records being made, but these tend to be found on the fringes of the industry and one really has to look for them. One does not tend to find interesting records in the mainstream, they are more written to a formula. I enjoyed the Pugwash record and a little ditty called ‘Little World‘ from Allyson Seconds last year. Not a lot about really.
On a similar subject: your track ‘Comrades in Pop’… Could you give a few words on this song for those who have yet to listen to the EP?
This is my little poem set to music about the industry. (Poem? Oh no the kiss of death) Just a piece of advice to all the young kids coming in. The advice is… not to get tangled up with the money men… it still happens… and will happen till time immemorial. If one gets 50% of what one is due in this game, then one has done well.
How have your Western English roots influenced your artistry along with your politics among your art?
Politics? … it doesn’t interest me… but England has influenced me very much. It is intimate feelings, the stuff people are reluctant to talk about, that is where I plough my furrow. And for a bottled up nation like us it rubs against the grain.
‘Greatness’ seems to explore your “great aspirations” – if you will – on reaching Gershwin and McCartney heights. Who were your influences prior to the start of your musical career and now?
Learning to play bass…. it was the riffy heavy stuff like Led Zeppelin, Free, Jethro Tull that I was interested in. I was very enamoured with Andy Fraser from Free. He played the bare minimum. I was very impressed with that sort of discipline.
And then there were other sources of inspiration. ……David Lean for his film making. Those Charles Dickens films he made in the forties. The photos for this project were a direct lift from that. Even the title.
Poems too, even dialogue in films. I like things gothic and dark. A lot of things from the sixties I like in terms of songs. Songs with mystery and allure. I am a throw back. I know it.
Are you a fan of vinyl? Could you see TC&I putting its music to wax in the near future? What was the first album you bought?
I love the sound of CD’s. But I love the packaging of vinyl. A combination of the two would be perfect. (never going to happen is it)
My first album I bought with my own money was Free’s ‘Fire And Water‘.
‘Kenny’ seems to be the ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ off of the album. Could you talk a bit on the subject matter of this track?
Kenny is the central figure in the landscape but the song itself is about the building on the playing fields and recreational spaces that used to be sacrosanct but now seems fair game to developers. Town councils, and although their job is a hard one with balancing the books and so forth, have a lot to answer for. A lot of things have happened which ought not to have. The point being that kids’ imaginations are forged in these wide open spaces. Something that cannot be quantified with a figure but which is felt throughout society.
It is a kind of football song. Sung from the terraces, and Kenny himself is based on a real life footballer. Perhaps this is why the national game has almost become defunct…although I expect it is slightly more complicated than that.
It was cut to a guitar riff which sounds very much like the motion of a train travelling through the landscape. The playing fields are best viewed from a train. ‘Somebody coming up to bowl’ as Philip Larkin describes in his poem “The Whitsun Weddings“. About a train journey that he took. Trains are big you see where I come from. Check out the “Nightmail” film from the GPO film unit… I’m sure it had an influence on this song. But then a lot of things have.
Can we expect any new music in 2018? Any tour dates?
I don’t know what you can expect. Whether I know myself I doubt it.
You see the old rules don’t apply anymore. No record company instruction. Just seeing how things turn out. If we get some more good material, then we’ll record some more. Similarly, if we get some nice pals to play with who are sympathetic to what we do then we might play some shows. Not knowing what’s coming next is more exciting you see.
Photo credits: Geoff Winn